WORCESTER, Mass. - April is National Autism Acceptance Month, and hundreds of people gathered at Polar Park on Saturday for the annual Autism Superhero 5K.

What You Need To Know

  • On Saturday, hundreds gathered at Polar Park for the Autism Superhero 5K

  • The annual event benefits HMEA's Autism Resource Central

  • April is National Autism Acceptance Month

  • The center helps connect families with specialists and other resources

The event, organized by HMEA's Autism Resource Central, gives families a memorable day of community networking and autism acceptance.

Kristen Bogosian signed up as a volunteer for Saturday’s 5K, and she’s well aware of how important the money it raises can be for a family facing the uncertainty of an autism diagnosis.

“When my son was diagnosed he was only 18 months old and I didn’t really know what to do," Bogosian said. "The doctor gives you the diagnosis and he gives you this booklet full of different resources, and the Autism Resource Center was one of the first places that I called.”

The center was launched in 1996 by a group of parents to serve as an information hub for families like Bogosian’s, who has three sons on the autism spectrum. Not only did the Center help connect her with specialists and other resources, they went above and beyond in times of crisis.

“They supported me through the death of my spouse," Bogosian said. "That was really significant for me in my life, and they were right there to help support me in any way that they could. The Autism Resource Center is there for you, and when you’re sinking in that boat, they kind of throw you that lifeline that you are looking for.”

Saturday’s Autism Superhero 5K at Polar Park included much more than the race itself - families had the chance to meet with dozens of local organizations working to help those diagnosed with autism live life to the fullest.

"The funding is so important for the center because they’re a nonprofit organization," Bogosian said. "Today is a really special thing for us, and it just warms all of our hearts and helps us to realize at the end of the day this is our family.”

For the more than 4,000 Central Massachusetts families who rely on the center, events like the 5K are also a reminder they’re part of a strong and supportive community that’s always looking out for each other.

“When you go to an event through the center, you know nobody is going to look at you funny, judge you or judge your family and it’s a safe place," Bogosian said. "It’s a safe place for you and your kids, and that’s what we’re all looking for.”